AUGUSTA – Debate continues this week on a Republican plan to transition control of “the most inefficient, wasteful part of state government,” the legislature itself, to the private sector.
“Think of the millions we will save by using time-honored strategies for corporate decision-making to create laws,” said Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney (R-Springvale). “Not to mention the income generated from selling the legislature to the highest bidder.”
Rep. Andre Cushing (R – Hampden) praised the planned constitutional amendment as a way to “make Maine more business-friendly” by “cutting out the middle man.”
Right now, he explained, corporations pay lobbyists, lobbyists pay legislators, and then legislators make laws, with each level “taking a cut along the way.” By having corporations make laws directly, “we achieve the same results with much less waste.”
Leading economists say the resulting profits would boost investments and spur economic growth throughout the state.
Nevertheless, Democrats vowed to defeat the amendment. Rep. Emily Cain (D – Orono) pointed out that “hundreds of hardworking Mainers [in the legislature] would be left jobless.”
“Well, maybe you would,” retorted Cushing.
Cain also argued that the Executive Branch is far more wasteful than the Legislative Branch, but analysts say the various bureaucracies working under the current governor are already about as privatized as they can get.
Outside the capitol building, a dozen protesters picketed with signs saying “Elected Representation is a Right” and “Don’t Sell Our Democracy.”
Sen. Courtney called them “a classic manifestation of the entitlement mentality in our society.” He later added, “we can’t expect government to do everything.”
The protest followed a much larger one on the same spot last Saturday, when hundreds of self-proclaimed “Tea Party” demonstrators carried signs with such slogans as “Less Government = More Freedom” and “Waste Not, Want Not.”
“We’re sick of big government running our lives,” said protester Todd Harmon of Dixfield.
Mary Turner of Lincoln said, “I’d rather take my chances with News Corp. or DuPont, or some other corporation that has a demonstrated track record of profit and success.”
When a reporter pointed out that the amendment would create an open bid process for control of the legislature, which could just as easily be won by someone like Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs, the Tea Party protesters quickly packed up their things and went home.